Text by Rick McVicar
Aging is tough business and the loss of roles, such as job performance and family position, can be hard to endure.
Those problems might be alleviated with the practice of drama therapy, which uses activities borrowed from the theater to draw the curtain open for a new act late in life. With drama therapy, people can act out any role they want and change one role for another. A senior citizen, for instance, might want to play the part of a high school senior.
Shoshi Keisari, in “Expanding the Role Repertoire in Aging: A Drama Therapy Model,” analyzes four different studies to detail the mental health benefits of drama therapy. The article was published by Frontiers in Psychology, March 5, 2021, and can be found on the National Institute of Health’s website.
“Mental health … refers to a positive development-while-aging process, and not only to the absence of mental illness,” Keisari writes.
The author describes the difficulty seniors have with losing the performance of roles, which brings a loss of self-identity with it. The challenge of aging, then, is to find a new sense of identity and an acceptance of one’s life.
With those challenges, “mental health… is characterized by an ability to express a variety of roles in daily living, and to live with ambivalence, contradictory tendencies and paradoxes in the role one expresses,” Keisari writes.
In other words, mental health can be defined as being multi-dimensional with the ability to perform different roles that may be at odds with each other. For instance, being a parent or grandparent may conflict with maintaining adult companionships.
Practicing how to switch those roles can be helpful. Drama therapy relies on improvisation, which can include a group devising reactions to someone’s past life experiences. With drama therapy, participants have the chance to enact past life events with different outcomes, offering a way to resolve past open-ended conflicts.
That makes drama therapy conducive to offering healthy relationship building with improved self-esteem and confidence.
However, drama therapy does not cure all the ills of aging, Keisari found. Feelings of loneliness will still persist, according to the studies that were analyzed.
The issue of changing roles is also addressed by the North American Drama Therapy Association’s website. The benefits of drama therapy for the aged are touted in the article, “Drama Therapy for a Geriatric Population.”
The article notes that seniors of various cognitive functioning levels can participate in drama therapy. The benefits include creativity, increased physical activity and an enhancement of cognitive and communication skills.
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